COLUMNISTS

Demand for beef is strong, both domestically and internationally

Jeff Swenson

Prepared and written by Jeff Swenson, DATCP Livestock and Meat Specialist. The Market Update draws information from several sources, including trade publications, radio broadcasts, agricultural news services, individuals involved in the industry as well as USDA NASS and AMS reports.

Jeff Swenson

Fed cattle prices were mostly steady this week. Rain in the Plains and other parts of the country experiencing drought pressured grain futures mid-week. Demand for beef is strong, both domestically and internationally. Packers are still falling short of keeping up with both demand and supply.

Harvest was estimated at 640,000 head last week. The latest World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimate (WASDE) report projects the average fed cattle price for 2022 at $122.00/cwt, $6.00 higher the 2021 projection. This would be the highest annual average since 2015.  

The season-average corn price received by producers in 2021-22 is projected at $5.70 per bushel, up $1.35 from a year ago when much of the crop was marketed at lower prices. A Cattle on Feed report will be released on May 21. The report is expected to be somewhat bearish with average pre-report estimates of On Feed numbers 3.7 percent higher than last year. Placed on feed guesses average 20.8 percent above last year and cattle marketed 33 percent over last year’s COVID impacted numbers.

The feeder cattle market has been surprisingly buoyant given climbing feed cost. Lightweight dairy breed steers have seen pressure, but beef calves and heavier cattle are still finding active bidders and new homes.

Cash hog prices trending lower

Cash hog prices have been trending lower this week, with an average reported live price of $84.34/cwt and a carcass base price of $109.85/cwt. Demand for pork remains strong domestically with packers continuing to keep the hog supply current.

The pork carcass cutout closed Wednesday was $118.01, up from $115.70 last Friday.   Estimated harvest for last week was 2.395 hogs. Export sales were for 19,000 metric tons of US raised pork.  The WASDE report estimates hog prices to average $56.00/cwt in 2022 compared to $67.00/cwt in 2021.

Retail beef prices head upward

Retail beef prices in April were $6.76/pound, .27 cents higher than March and .31 cents higher than last April. This would be the highest retail beef price on record if not for the pandemic highs of May through July 2020.

Retail pork prices set an all-time high in April of $4.32/pound, up .16 cents from March and .87 cents (11 percent) from last year. Retail chicken prices started 2021 at $1.60/pound, but have dropped each month since. 

The April chicken price was $1.52/pound, down .03 cents from March and .05 cents from last year. With strong cutout values for both beef and pork there is the possibility of retail prices for both to average higher prices in May’s report.

Corn planting heads down home stretch

Wisconsin farmers made considerable planting progress during the past week. Corn planting in Wisconsin is 78 percent completed, even with last year and 11 days ahead of the five year average. This compares to 80 percent of the national corn crop being planted.

Wisconsin farmers have 63 percent of the state’s expected soybean acres in the planted, two days ahead of last year and 13 percent ahead of the average. It’s estimated 61 percent of the nation’s soybeans are in the ground.

Pasture conditions across the US have been a concern all spring. Wisconsin pastures are rated 58 percent good to excellent, 4 percent below the previous week. Nationally just 25 percent of pastures are rated good to excellent.

State auction market news

Choice beef breed steers and heifers at Wisconsin and surrounding state auction markets were steady to $1.00/cwt lower. High-yielding, high-grading cattle brought 100.00 to 116.00/cwt. but with some cattle selling up to $122.00/cwt. Choice and Prime Holstein steers were steady bringing $90.00 to $103.00/cwt. There were some packages of Holstein steers selling up to $105.00/cwt. 

Silage fed, under finished or heavy dairy breed steers brought $70.00 to $92.00/cwt. Dairy x Beef steers were mostly $85.00 to $115.00/cwt. Cows were steady to $1.00 lower at $45.00 to $63.00/cwt. Blemish free cows in fleshier condition were selling to $70.00/cwt. Doubtful health and thin cows were bringing $45.00/cwt and down.

Dairy breed bull calves were lower $40.00 to $110.00/cwt with heavier, well cared for calves up to $175.00/cwt.  Beef and Beef Cross calves brought up to $305.00/cwt.